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  May 26, 2017

Post Brexit Trade Deals - Who Will be the Winners and Losers?

Trade Campaigner Linda Kaucher discusses the dangers that lie ahead for the UK public in Post Brexit Trade deals. Will banks and corporations win at the expense of the population?
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LINDA KAUCHER: Hi. I'm Linda Kaucher. I've been looking at international trade agreements for quite a few years, working to inform the public about what's dangerous in them and working to oppose them. Trade agreements are not being mentioned by the parties in the election really, certainly not the dangers of trade agreements. There's two aspects that receive very little attention in this country and not world defined and that's U.K.'s own Unilateral Liberalization and also labor issues are not mentioned very much.

The U.K. has been completely liberalized since Thatcher's time and that means that we have been completely open, all investment opportunities here have been completely open to transnational investors. Whether it's a private sector, like firms being sold off, it's always open to transnational investors and the result of that is that we don't own anything anymore in this country because it's been in that direction for a long time. It also applies when there are privatizations in the public sector, those investment opportunities are also open to transnational investors. So, this complete liberalization is to suit the needs of the city of London because the transnational financial services there, we have to be the global model for liberalization because that's what they want globally so that's what drives U.K. policy.

There's little attention paid to workers and to labor aspect of the economy really. If you notice, there's less and less reporting on workers as the shift in reporting has gone towards business perspectives and business needs. Tom Mills, in his book on the BBC really points this out how there aren't any industrial reporters anymore, it's all business focused. Work is really central to our lives, it's central to how we spend our time, much of our lives in time. It's also central to our survival and labor's also the fundamental part of the economy. The left pays insufficient attention to this but the right, as in big business, certainly knows the importance of driving down labor standards. Obviously this happens through two main mechanisms, is to shift work overseas to cheaper labor areas or to bring in, move across borders, workers who will work more cheaply. That's inherently undermines labor standards as well. Both of these are reinforced in trade agreements and facilitated in international trade agreements.

So, what we're looking at going forward with U.K. trade agreements, the U.K. will be in the trade agreements that the EU is hurriedly pushing forward at this stage for quite a few years, we'll be tied into those for quite a few years. Then, we're looking at the Brexit deals that are being suggested or pursued. Obviously, a main priority for the U.K. government is a trade agreement with the U.S. and the person who has been and probably will continue to be in charge of Secretary of State for international trade is Liam Fox, who's very closely aligned with U.S. big business, in fact, as been an organization that has been a bridge for a major U.S. lobbying organization. So, very tied to the U.S. corporations and obviously the U.K. is very keen to push ahead with a deal with the U.S.

We can look at what went on with the trade investment partnership with the EU that has been negotiated for a few years but is at a standstill now and we can see there that the biggest force was U.S. agribusiness pushing to get their lower standard food into the EU and you can see that the U.K. is quite, as always, quite a GM friendly government and that the U.K. can be the opening for that, for U.S. agribusiness pushing into the U.K. and as a doorway to the rest of Europe. Liam Fox has already said that the needs of the banking industry and financial services will be prioritized in a U.S., U.K. trade agreement if it was to happen. So, you can see that the needs of the public and so for instance, on food standards would be not prioritized at all, it will be traded off for the needs of banking.

Another strong suggestion and a push forward is to have a U.K., India free trade agreement and there again we can see the previous model of what was negotiated in an EU, India free trade agreement. The main priority for India is always to be pushing out, supplying cheap labor into other countries and that will be the priority. In a U.K., India free trade agreement it will be cheap labor for India will be the Indian priority in an agreement like that. In trade terms this is called NO 4, it's part of services and NO 4 has no numerical limits to it, it has no quotas, you can't have an economic needs test to see whether you actually need workers from outside or not.

All that is prohibited within the trade context so an U.K., India trade agreement would be a big opening to cheap labor from India, supplied by any Indian firm and there's a lot of Indian firms. So, this is something that workers here need to be aware of, there's another push obviously to have an agreement with China. The deal that the EU has been negotiating with China is a bilateral investment treaty so it's only concerned with investment rather than the whole range of a free trade agreement. The difference with the bilateral investment treaty is that things like human rights, labor conditions and, or environment do not come into it at all. There are no other demands in that regard.

We need to be really watchful about what is being proposed for trade agreements and not accept this magic word that trade agreements are the one thing we need. It's the content of trade agreements that really matters and we need to know that from the earliest stages and we need the assessment of who's going to benefit and who's going to lose from such trade agreements.

A good source of information about trade agreements generally, but in the EU context is Corporate Europe Observatories, CEO. They've looked at a lot of aspects of the agreements that have been negotiated at the EU level. What we need in the U.K. is a sense of strong network for information sharing that has been in place across the EU to fight the EU trade agreements. Now we need that sort of network here sharing on the focus of trade agreements.


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